By Lance Minnis
When I was growing up, we lived in a large old farmhouse with a nice open wrap-around porch.
I must have painted that house five times as a kid, because the weather boards were so old, paint would no longer stick, and years of accumulated paint would chip off between one summer and the next.
Of course, my father would rouse me out of bed early on Saturday, and we would get a good start on some painting project or other. He would often leave me alone to complete it, and then check my work when I was finished.
This one episode, I couldn’t have been any older than nine, he had set me to repainting the wicker porch furniture with white paint. I proceeded to brush the old paint off, then laboriously repaint the arms, seat, back and tops of several chairs, a settee, and tables.
Proud of my work, and just wanting to be done already so I could enjoy my Saturday doing kid’s stuff, I showed my work to Dad.
He immediately flipped the furniture over, discovering that I had not painted the bottoms. He looked at me, and I at him, in one of those seminal moments when character is formed — I didn’t understand why it was important, and he couldn’t believe I hadn’t done a thorough job.
In retrospect, I can say that all I was concerned with at the time was moving on to the next thing that I wanted to do, and making sure the superficial appearance of the thing looked right.
And certainly, in the grand scheme of things it probably didn’t matter much whether the bottoms were painted or not, as the furniture was going to sit on a covered porch. But a habit of corner cutting, or “missing the bottom” to give the appearance of a complete job, can have serious consequences out in the world.
I think we all want the people who provide us with goods and services to be diligent, to care about doing a complete and thorough job, to do their due diligence and make sure that the items they provide are safe and durable and affordable. Even more so in a small community, where reputation is everything. This extends to more than just the products and services offered.
Small businesses should be diligent in how they approach the customer as well. Is the customer happy? Was the job done completely and to the satisfaction of the customer? If not, how was the problem addressed and fixed? Were the right actions and behaviors taken to quickly and accurately fix the problem and keep the customer happy?
Ultimately, if an individual or company “misses the bottom,” it will be discovered. In our jaded society, we often feel like there is nothing we can do when shortchanged. It’s the way of the world. There is a market factor involved, that those businesses which do a diligent job get more customers, but we can also hold those people we do business with to a higher standard.
In many cases, such as in my business or the accounting trade, a lack of diligence can do serious harm to a customer’s bottom line, and a lack of thoroughness in providing follow through and support in the relationship can damage the ability to provide timely and proper services. There is a responsibility of both parties to make sure that these things are done. However, when taking on a job, we as business people need to make sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and our customers need to hold us to it. If the job is more than we thought or wanted, if it takes too long, or we have something better (or better paying) or more fun waiting in the wings….well, we should have planned better. But to shortchange that customer in order to move on is not only wrong, it WILL have an impact, as others will hear about it. This is just as true for kids and the furniture as it is for a million dollar business.
Lance Minnis is an Advisor and Financial Coach with Commonwealth Financial Advisors, LLC. He can be reached at 502-523-2727. Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Lance Minnis, and do not constitute financial or investment advice.